Less-than-ideal climatic conditions confront the 2023 World Food Day (WFD) in Indonesia. The emergence of El Nino after a three-year La Nina phase has led to a global temperature surge in almost all regions, heightening the risk of drought and land fires in Indonesia.
El Nino’s threat is not novel, and Indonesia has experienced this phenomenon several times. In 2015, Indonesia also faced this phenomenon, resulting in hundreds of thousands of agricultural lands experiencing drought.
According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, in 2018, around 20,269 hectares of land were affected by crop failure or a 20% decrease in harvest productivity across Indonesia.
Data from 1980 to 2010 showed various agricultural issues, including crop failures due to weather uncertainty and reduced harvest productivity.
“In 2023, the El Nino threat is gaining more attention from the public due to Indonesia’s food security. We still recall that last year at the beginning and during the harvest season, we faced rice shortages, prompting the government to import,” stated Dr. Bayu Dwi Apri Nugroho from the UGM Faculty of Agricultural Technology on Monday, October 16.
For Dr. Nugroho, commemorating World Food Day amid the El Nino threat raises public concerns about rice stocks. The question arises: Are rice stocks adequate during El Nino?
Apart from taking measures such as importing to ensure food stock availability, Dr. Nugroho suggests that public involvement is necessary in confronting El Nino.
Conservation of water by using it wisely and, in areas still receiving rainfall, storing rainwater for reserves are among the actions recommended.
Regarding future weather predictions on a national scale, Dr. Nugroho believes that disseminating this information to the public and down to the farmers is crucial. This information can guide farmers in creating planting schedules.
“Hence, issues related to failed planting or reduced yields can be avoided, enabling farmers to prepare drought-resistant rice varieties or other drought-tolerant crops,” he added.
Dr. Nugroho highlights that amid the uncertain El Nino, research needs to be encouraged in universities and government or private research institutions to develop drought-resistant plant varieties or those requiring less water.
He emphasizes the vital role of agricultural extension officers and village officials in supporting farmers, particularly when they are adapting to drought in their areas during cultivation.
“However, El Nino’s impact on food security necessitates adaptation steps, and we all hope that food security in communities remains intact despite this phenomenon,” explained the agroclimatology and environmental science expert.
Researchers and academics have addressed El Nino’s impact on the agricultural sector by intensifying weather monitoring, water conservation, diversification of drought-adaptive crops, pest and disease management, and information technology.
Nonetheless, one crucial aspect often overlooked is the synergy between farmers and extension workers, who are an extension of the government. The solutions proposed will only be effective with intense collaboration and synergy between farmers and extension workers.
According to Dr. Nugroho, active involvement from farmers is crucial in adapting and mitigating the impact of El Nino. Farmers, being the main actors in facing El Nino, should receive education about this phenomenon. As long as farmers’ awareness about El Nino remains low, many of them might consider this as just a regular occurrence.
“Farmers might think it’s ordinary, just a seasonal anomaly, and things will return to normal soon. However, they need education on this matter, and this is where the role of extension workers is critical,” he emphasized.
Beyond education, farmers need to be given simple lessons in observing daily changes in their land. They need to observe everyday conditions on their land and the plant’s physiology, among other aspects. Documenting or memorizing these changes in the environment and plants is essential.
Furthermore, weekly meetings between farmers and extension workers are needed to collect information on each land’s conditions. For farmers, this will be a lesson learned about how they directly perceive the El Nino conditions and how to find solutions by listening to input and knowledge from the extension workers.
This collaboration between farmers and extension workers is expected to serve as a model for direct adaptation and mitigation within the community. Although El Nino information affects Indonesia, the conditions in each region vary.
Therefore, each area needs to collect different information to form the basis for real solutions to El Nino and future climate phenomena.
“The synergy and collaboration between farmers and extension workers are expected to be on the front line in dealing with El Nino and ensuring food availability remains intact,” he concluded.
Author: Agung Nugroho
Image source: freepik.com